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Excursions Adds Alaskan Dog Sledding and More


on has announced some exciting new additions to their extensive portfolio of destinations and shore excursions.  Hundreds of Essential Collection tours, small group tours, and private transfers have been added.  Additionally, wheelchair-adapted tour vehicles have been increased for guests.

One exciting new excursion is something most everyone dreams of doing in Alaska: Yukon Dog Sledding.  This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity happens in Skagway, which boasts a population of just 1,000 residents.  The tiny town is a popular stop for many cruise lines, and passengers enjoy the charming atmosphere and fun outdoor activities.

Other destinations and excursions the company have added to their list include:

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  • Tauranga, New Zealand with a Tauranga Highlights excursion including Mission Station
  • City tours in Manila, Philippines
  • Pearl Harbor and Honolulu tours offered at Oahu in Hawaii
  • City tours and 4WD Safaris at Papeete, Tahiti
  • Highlights tour in Phuket, Thailand
  • Lekursi Castle and Blue Eye Spring tours at Sarande, Albania
  • City tour at Thessaloniki, Greece
  • A full day touring at Yangon, Myanmar

Excursions featured in the Essential Collection are designed to include key sites, and are perfect for first-time visitors to get a great overview of a destination.  The company has added hundreds of these tours to their collection this year, including Modern Dubai, Colombo City, and Hong Kong.

When cruising launched in 2011, they had 240 European excursions at 60 Mediterranean ports.  Now, they feature around 12,000 excursions at over 700 ports around the world.



Review: Panoramic Athens Tour Cruise Excursion



There are certain spots around the world which have attractions you simply have to see when visiting. You can’t go to Paris, France without going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. When in Rome, you not only do what the Romans do, you swing by the Colosseum. And in Athens, Greece, the must-see spot is the Acropolis.

The word acropolis is Greek for “upper city” and has come to mean a city or fortress built atop a hill with steep sides, all the better to hold off potential invading forces. And the world-famous Acropolis was just one stop on the Panoramic Athens Tour, booked through Cruising Excursions, which I’m reviewing today.

Before Booking The Tour

When looking for a shore excursions, you really have to take into account both what kind of traveler you are and what you’re wanting to get out of the day. And if you’re booking for a party, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page. The last thing you want to do is book an excursion that involves a lot of walking or hiking when someone in your party isn’t going to be able to keep up.

In the case, we were looking for something to do in Athens that would let us see the sights and experience the city without being rushed. There were several excursions offered through the ship, but none really ticked all the boxes for us. Plus, when comparison shopping, the cost was sometimes double (or even more) what we’d pay booking through an outside company.

The Panoramic Athens Tour from boasted time at the Ancient Acropolis, Panathenaic Stadium, the Temple of Athena, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and time in the Plaka, an amazing village which is usually described as being “in the shadow of the Acropolis.”  It seemed to combine just about everything we were looking for, and the price was right at $70 per person, so we booked it and began researching the places we’d be visiting.

It’s important to note that when you buy the tour you’ll receive a voucher that you need to print; this is your ticket to the tour, so be sure to bring it with you!

Docking in Athens

Upon arriving, your cruise ship doesn’t actually dock in Athens but a little ways away at Piraeus, which is actually one of the busiest shipping ports in the Mediterranean. Here, there are a lot of ferry boats, container ships and multiple terminals for cruise ships. The cruise terminal itself was very easy to navigate (which is always a concern when you’re in another country!), and we made our way to the front of the terminal, where we saw a line of buses. There was someone from Cruising Excursions holding up a sign that said Panoramic Athens Tour, which meant we’d found where we were supposed to be! Once the rest of our fellow passengers arrived, we jumped on the air-conditioned motor coach and were given an itinerary.

First Stop

As we made our way to the first stop, we were given a sightseeing tour of Greece’s capital city and got some historical context for both the sites we would soon see and the country’s current state of affairs. We then arrived at the ancient Panathenaic Stadium, the only stadium in the world build entirely of marble. The stadium was an architectural marvel, holding over 60,000 spectators and constructed out of 85,100 metric tons of marble. (That’s a whole lotta kitchen counters!)  Fittingly, the stadium was used during the 2004 Olympics, hosting the archery competition and serving as the finish line for the marathons. It’s also here that the Olympic torch ceremony takes place before the flame begins making its way toward the chosen host city.

Walking Up The Acropolis

A bit later, the tour arrived at Acropolis rock. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the bus parking lot to the top… although truth be told, it could be much quicker were it not for the crowds. This is an incredibly popular spot, so there’s almost always a large group of people exploring! Once we’d reached the summit, we were given time to roam around and explore the ruins on our own. It’s hard to tell which is more awe-inspiring: The feeling of being at a place where so much history unfolded, or the breathtaking views.

Highlights include the Parthenon (which was the temple devoted to Athena, the Goddess of War, whom the people of Athens considered their patron); and the Theater of Dionysus (which was devoted to the God of plays and wine).

Another site of note: Next to Acropolis Rock sits Mars Hill, where Paul the Apostle preached his sermon on the identity of the Unknown God.

Dining and Shopping in Plaka

Next, we went to the shopping district of Plaka, where we had a chance to wander around and explore the local culture, shops and restaurants. The first place we visited was a little square so that we could grab some lunch… exploring ancient ruins, you work up an appetite! We ordered grilled vegetables and tzatziki sauce. There were a handful of restaurants to choose from, but we opted to play it safe by eating where the tour guide recommended. A major plus: People working in the establishment spoke English, meaning I didn’t have to break out Google Translate and hope for the best!

One thing which really surprised me was just how affordable many of the shops in Athens were. Basic souvenirs like mugs and magnets were inexpensive, and so were many of the local handmade crafts. We were able to pick up a bottle of olive oil for just a few dollars.

Heading Back to the Ship


The ride back to Piraeus, where the ship was docked, took around 30 minutes. Dropped off at the terminal, you could tell that everyone had enjoyed the day as they discussed what sites they’d seen and shared pics with one another.

Final Thoughts

The Panoramic Athens Tour was the perfect excursion for those looking to get a taste of the city without having to spend too much time in one place. It didn’t feel at all rushed, and yet we covered a fair amount of ground. It was also a nice combination of guided tour and time to independently explore. Our guide, who spoke English (which can be very important when you’re in a foreign country in which you don’t speak the language) was friendly, helpful and happy to answer questions or share historical points of interest.

You can read more about the Cruising Excursions tour here: Panoramic Athens Tour

Cruising Excursions is one of my podcast sponsors, and gave me this excursion in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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Cruise News

The Best Selling Cruise Excursions of 2016


on has revealed their top selling excursions throughout last year.  Their tours are available to book in advance before sailing, with prices that are lower than the cruise lines with a price match guarantee.  Excursions include English-speaking guides, air conditioned transportation, and a guarantee that guests will make it back to their ship with plenty of time before departure.

The top excursions were:

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  1. Port Rome Civitavecchia: Rome the Complete Tour – an 8 hour tour that hits all the major sites in Rome
  2. Port St. Petersburg: Shared Group Tour – 2-day tour in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  3. Port Naples: Pompeii, Sorrento & Positano View Tour – an 8 hour excursion visiting some of the most popular sites and cities from Naples, Italy.
  4. Port Livorno: Picturesque Pisa & Famous Florence Tour – an 8.5 hour tour visiting these two famous Italian cities.
  5. Port Athen Piraeus: Panoramic Athens Tour – a 6 hour tour in Athens, Greece.

The company’s COO Simonne Fairbanks says “It’s interesting that Italian excursions have taken three of the top five places in our best selling list.  Certainly we know that there was additional interest in Rome in 2016 due to the Holy Year Jubilee that took place and there are so many amazing attractions within easy distance of Naples and Livorno ports, it’s easy to see why they are in the top three.” She goes on to say, “For 2017 we’re seeing increased interest in Oman especially a ‘Khasab Dhow Cruise with Snorkeling’, and from the Polish port Gdynia on the Baltic Sea a ‘Gdansk Tour & Oliwa Cathedral’ is proving popular as is a small group Estonia ‘Tallinn Lower Town with Beer Tasting Tour’.” features around 12,000 excursions at over 700 ports around the world.

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The 12 Days of Cruising: 6 Shore Excursions



On the 6th day of Christmas my true love gave me a chance to see the world by sharing 6 uh-mazing shore excursions. It’s truly the gift of memories and experiences and I want to share it with you. Here are 6 knock-your-socks-off shore excursions to put on your Christmas list.

1. Glow in San Juan

Your night will glow like never before when you visit the Bioluminescent Bay in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is truly one of nature’s wonders and a can’t-miss excursion.

Kayaking down a mangrove channel with only the moonlight and blue-green glow of the bioluminescent organisms to guide you, you’ll see the night a whole new magical way. Don’t feel like kayaking? No worries, the tour operators also have a boat option where you can sail softly through and see all the sparkling lights.

Side note, be sure to book through the cruise lines for this tour. Speaking from personal experience, this tour can easily run late, and if that happens, you don’t want to be left on the San Juan pier at midnight watching your cruise ship sail away without you.

2. Swim with Stingrays

While you can find stingrays throughout the ocean, there’s a pretty special and popular spot to sneak a swim in with these graceful creatures. In Grand Cayman, Stingray City was created years ago by fisherman cleaning their fish in the calm waters of the sandbars. The Stingrays began to associate those boat motors with food and the swimming sessions followed soon after.

Now, you can take a boat tour, jump in the warm, shallow water and interact with the stingrays. You can feed them, massage them and if you’re lucky, grab a kiss for good luck.

3. Climb into History

At one time, a good amount of the Caribbean and its cruise ports were part of the Mayan empire. The remains of that time still exist today in many ways and many places.

In Belize, you can interact with that history by visiting Mayan ruins. You’ll find mane famous ruins to tour – and in some cases, even climb. Among the most famous are Xunantunich, Altun Ha, Cahal Pech, and Santa Rita. In the ruins you’ll find multiple plazas, pyramids and even abundant wildlife.  If you’re willing to climb these ancient pyramids, your reward will be stunning views of the Belizean countryside (and a sense of accomplishment).

4. Ride in the Ocean

Saddle up for an unforgettable experience, horseback riding on the beach and in the ocean. This excursion is available in multiple ports giving you multiple places to enjoy the power and majesty of both the horse and the ocean. Most rides include a normal trot along the beach (with a saddle) and then the chance to ride bareback into the waves.

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Many of the cruise lines offer this on their private islands. It’s available in the Bahamas and Grand Turk. The flexibility of this offering lets you experience it while not missing exclusive excursions in other ports.

5. Hike the Glacier

This takes winter wonderland to a whole new level. One of the most popular excursions in Juneau, Alaska, this tour gives you the chance to hike an actual glacier, the Mendenhall Glacier.

With stunning, unforgettable views, you’ll also explore ice caves, melt water streams, pools, crevasses, and more. There are multiple levels of hiking difficulty available with this tour and if you’re not able to hike, there are helicopter tours that allow you to view the beauty of this magnificent glacier from above.

6. Tour the Ruins

You’ve probably heard of Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. You’ve also probably heard of Naples, Italy – the Italian town where both are located. You may not have heard of a place called Herculaneum.

Herculaneum was the Hamptons of Roman times. It was the it” place back in the Roman day. It was ocean front property complete with sprawling, stunning properties and mosaics. Herculaneum too was destroyed during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Discovered not that long ago underneath modern Naples houses, it’s an almost perfectly preserved site from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In many cases, the original wood was preserved, along with entire buildings and tile work.

Since it’s lesser known, it’s usually not crowded and offers a unique look into Roman times. Be sure to add this historic site to your bucket list – and shore excursion list.

What is your all-time favorite shore excursion? What was your least favorite one? We’d love to hear from you!

Read our previous entires in the 12 Days of Cruising series:

Photo: Holland America

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